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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1851, Section 8 Voucher Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman. I thank my colleague from Florida for the generous words about the procedure. There were some differences between us on the parties on this, but in general, this represents a consensus.

And, Mr. Speaker, I want to give credit where credit is due. This is a result of a process that was begun by our former colleague from Ohio, Mr. NEY.

He convened when he was Chair of the Housing Subcommittee a set of roundtable discussions with participation from HUD, from tenant groups, from landlord groups that participate, and from others. And much of what is in this bill came out of the sessions that he and his then ranking member, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Waters), now the Chair of the subcommittee, did.

So as is always the case in a parliamentary body, we will, as is appropriate, focus to some extent on some differences. And there are several amendments that will present sharp differences, but people ought to keep in mind that it is in the context of a great deal of agreement.

In addition to the agreements already there, I have had conversations with several of the Republican Members, the gentleman from California (Mr. Gary G. Miller); the gentleman from California (Mr. Campbell); the ranking member of the subcommittee, the gentlewoman from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert). We have some agreements about what we should be doing, how this should be interpreted, what we should be doing going further, and I look forward in the general debate to colloquies with all of them so that I think we can further solidify the agreements that we have going forward.

Now, as to the substance of the bill, the section 8 program is a very important one. Many of us believe that the problem has been not with the section 8 program but that it stood alone, that it was not accompanied by programs that would build housing. And in other pieces of legislation that have come out of the Financial Services Committee, some of which have come to the floor, some of which are about to come to the floor, we are going to try to add a supply side, if I may borrow the phrase, to the demand side.

We have a program here which increases the demand for housing by putting money in the hands of people who otherwise would not be able to afford decent housing. But if all you do is that and you don't also help build housing, you can have an adverse impact on price. So we hope to be able to balance it, but that is not the fault of this program.

What this bill does is to make it more flexible. It has much in there that HUD agrees with; although, again, I don't claim that everybody agrees with everything. An indication of the extent to which this simply improves the program, I will include in the Record several letters on this subject. One letter comes from those who are the landlords, who rent.

And, by the way, we are not automatically doing them a favor. In a tight rental market, as we have in many parts of this country, it is a good thing for the public purpose that landlords are willing to participate. Many of these landlords, they don't have to be in the section 8 program, so we try to reach out to them. And here is a letter endorsing the bill from the Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the National Affordable Housing Management Association, the National Apartment Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Leased Housing Association, and the National Multi Housing Council.

We also have strong support from those in the public sector at the local level who administer this: the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials and the Council of Large Public Housing Agencies. And then we have also a letter from a large coalition of advocacy groups, of religious groups that are in the business of building the housing. There is a very broad degree of support for this bill.

I understand there are a couple of points of difference, and I realize, too, there are some points of difference that couldn't have been presented. I would have liked them to be. But I think that the three amendments that are in order on the Republican side do present some of the most important differences.

I should note, by the way, that while three amendments reflect the disagreement that many in the minority have with the bill, two of the other amendments are really bipartisan. The manager's amendment is an amendment in which the gentleman from Illinois and the gentlewoman from California collaborated.

So the manager's amendment, one of the six amendments, it is designated as the Waters amendment, but it is very bipartisan. And the second one that is bipartisan is an amendment that deals with situations that threaten the ability of people to stay in affordable housing in the district my colleague from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey) and our colleague from the committee from Ohio (Ms. Pryce).

So we have two amendments which are completely bipartisan. We have those three. And then the one that the gentlewoman from New York will offer on domestic violence, which I don't think is terribly controversial.

So I understand that we haven't resolved all the differences. I do think that, and let me put it this way, of all the housing bills that have come to the floor from this committee, this is the least controversial. I don't want anyone to get bored. When we come back in early September, we can fight again. But I do think on this one, while there will be some disagreements, what we reflect is a basic consensus on how to improve an important social program that, as I said, began under Republican leadership in the last Congress and we have largely continued the process.

I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

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